A marketing colleague used to say, that when you have something awful to sell you have got to whistle on buy – that is coat the ugly pluckling in positive euphemism and then sell fast and furious. Now “whistle on buy” only works when you are a dominate player in the market – but Microsoft has no problems there. But they do have ugly pluckling problems with their application stack.
The problems with the current Microsoft Application stack are:
0)it is very limited cross platform – Compact and Embedded Frameworks are still quite limited;
1)its is almost all closed source with small, concessions to schools and governments;
2)its no longer the lowest cost alternative – taking away the bargain value cover for operability warts like poor reliability and scalability and now security shortcomings;
3)its legacy of “just good enough” & “ease of use and ease of operation trumps all” software development has only recently acquired the trustworthy computing mandate and the language tools and constructs in the .NET Framework to provide industrial strength, enterprise caliber security, reliability, scalability and availability. A continuing stream of security and reliability breeches on the desktop, in its mail service functions, and on its servers has been the Windows Application STack Environ legacy from inception and still persists;
4)its unproven .NET Framework – questions persist about proven enterprise caliber performance of .NET. For example, only within the past year has Redmond actually adopted and used .NET code for its own major internal applications and Server development. Office 2003, InfoPath 2003, and Project 2003 were all substantially if not completely outside .NET . Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk 2004 have all been seriously late for delivery. And these are the first major Microsoft apps to be developed substantially in .NET code;
5)its rapidly eroding backward compatibility – David Massy and Joel Spolskys Raymond Chen camp offer red herring examples of Microsofts “valiant efforts” to provide backward compatibility. Come on guys, leave the campaign style exaggerations to the current political info polluters. The simple fact of the matter is that more Windows apps only work with IE 6 and IE is the worst offender for being off W3C and other standards. IE backward compatibility is an excuse to persist proprietary extensions and to mask the failure to provide a stick to standards toggle switch and some easily implemented standards based substitutes. And on the Windows side read what the Common Engineering Roadmap engenders – between tight coupling between Windows applications and servers and backward compatibility- Redmond will choose tight coupling. In short, Linux and Java have much better records for backward compatibility than the Windows application stack;
6)its tightly coupling windows apps and servers together – to the exclusion of 3rd parties;
7)its the least open and natively interoperable application stack – defacto and dejure standards like CORBA, OpenGL, PDF, Flash SWF, Real media formats, etc, etc must be supported by third parties or not at all in countless Microsoft systems. Redmond deliberately tilts the playing field so ISVs develop apps that are Windows-dependent. Because Redmond paid Sun $2B in bribe money, an obsolete JVM persists on Windows desktops until at least 2007. And because W3C , ECMA and other standards on IE are infected both with persistent proprietary extensions and lack of support for complete standards – in a world of open and interoperable, IE and the whole of Microsoft application development is virally infected with the disease “that everything must run best in Windows only”. So terms such as “Common Engineering Roadmap” and “Innovation Integration” become corrupted because good efforts for integration get mixed in with the bad. Redmond negates much positive effort with this deliberate strategy of creating a tilted playing field while trying to whistle on buy.
At the recent July 2004 Microsoft Partnership Conference in Toronto, Redmond spelled out to ISVs and VARs what Innovation Integration means to them … and the ISVs better say YES SIR or otherwise they could find like BI vendors (with the wave of new Microsoft giveaways in their arena) or PC photo slideshow vendors (Microsoft has just announced its giving away Photo Story 3, a fairly good slideshow creation tool, for free to get users to buy and/or register and activate their copy of Windows XP) – ISVs could become either a target or part of the collateral damage of Redmonds latest marketing forays.
Now all Steve Ballmer has to do is sell his whistle on buy – Innovation Integration, to the Enterprise crowd getting so dangerously enamored of loosely coupled, highly interoperable Open Source systems such that even Gartner is now saying its a good thing. Unfortunately for Steve, a few observers, including iconoclastic Joel Spolsky again, are taking a critical look at “Innovation Integration” and concluding that for a variety of reasons the Microsoft “it must work best in Windows” tilt is a very high price to pay.